Daniela Dessì in Madama Butterfly at Teatru Astra Print E-mail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter


Today's Sunday Times of Malta carries out extensive coverage on Teatru Astra's latest opera star engagement. The piece, which also features a photo of Daniela Dessi is titled Iron Lady of Opera.  We are reproducing the full interview below.

Welcomed by a “sono contentissima di venire a Gozo”, I could not but feel at ease in Ms Dessì’s camerino at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome.  Starting off by recalling with great enthusiasm her one and only Malta visit with the artists of the Metropolitan Opera in 2007 at the Teatru Manoel for a memorable concert, Daniela Dessì’s refined charm and cultured sophistication could be felt from the word go.

Falling in love with opera at the young age of 11, when Corelli, Nilsson, Cossotto, and Gencher held audiences in thrall at the Teatro dell’Opera, Daniela decided that the opera world was the one she wanted to inhabit!  “It was love at first hearing!’ she confessed with a knowing hint of a smile.  One could rightly say that she came...she saw...she was conquered...and she conquered!  Introduced to Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera boards as a comparsa by her aunt, who sang in the choir, Daniela’s sonorous deep voice soon caught the attention of her colleagues. The unmistakable star quality was there: waiting to be coaxed out.  “I just could not stop myself from imitating the grandi”, she declared.  One could hardly blame her.  That’s exactly how many started, and ended up being imitated themselves!  Daniela Dessì is a case in point.  Her prowess as a supreme Puccini interpreter is acknowledged by one and all.  “A bella voce is not enough to get you far”, she continued.  “Without the intelligenza del canto (intelligent singing) you don’t get anywhere”, she stressed.  Indeed, the 7-minute rapturous applause she was accorded on the opening night of Madama Butterfly at the Teatro dell’Opera, bears witness to her magisterial interpretation, plumbing the depths of Puccini’s superb score to bring out every single nuance with timeless grace and high style.

Madama Butterfly just got under her skin: she was Cio Cio San.  “It is an intimate story which takes on universal dimensions”, Daniela went on pointedly.  A woman blessed with a strong personality and commanding presence, Daniela slid easily into the dainty slippers of the ill-fated geisha, and towered above the menacing bow of the U.S. warship dominating the background of the stage, without flinching.  “It’s all about the grande personalità’ of women who share a common denominator: unwavering and faithful love”, she emphasized, her voice rising slowly with barely subdued emotion.  Like the other Puccini heroines, Butterfly is more like an iron lady than anything else!  The softness and exquisite feminine traits encase a fibre of steel which sustains the mounting drama leading to the tragic outcome. 

“Singing is all about the words: the words introduce you to the music and vice-versa”, she went on when asked about the way she tackles her roles. Flashing a winning smile, Daniela brought up what can be aptly termed a roll-call of the world’s principal opera conductors – Kleiber, Maazel, Mehta, Muti, Abbado, Levine, Chailly, with whom she has registered landmark performances.  “When one is a true professional”, she actually used the all-inclusive term artisti, “one speaks the same language.  Problems do not arise with the great.  Problems crop up with the mediocre.  It is the mediocre who wants to prove himself.  Greatness comes out unbidden”.  Who could contradict her? 
Switching to stage productions, Daniela definitely shuns the outrageous.  “When I was briefed about certain scenes and costumes, I declined”, she commented decidedly.  She holds that the music is centre-stage in opera and patrons should not be distracted by needless and pointless “theatre” and blatant “exhibitionism”.  “People should speak about the music not the artistic director”, she went on with conviction.  “I believe that music and vulgarity do not mix”.  This does not mean that “it was not a step in the right direction that the vecchie tele (past scenery) have given way to modern settings. Rather! It means that good taste should characterize every production.  Things should be put in their proper perspective”.  One could easily discern Ms Dessì’s innate sense of proportion and poise as she said those words.

I just could not refrain from asking how she feels when partnered on the stage by her life companion Fabio Armiliato, himself a top flight tenor, hailed as one of the current best exponents of the Italian school.  “Singing with Fabio is much easier.  There is a different type of confidence, both on personal and musical levels”, she explained. They form indeed a dream duo.  Time was unfortunately pressing, but Ms Dessì graciously let out that in her “spare time” she enjoys listening to pop music as her musical tastes are wide ranging; pops into the gym; cooks for her 18-year old son and leads as “normal” a way of life as possible! 

Time was up! Her “Arrivederci a Gozo” was followed by my “Con grande piacere!”  I’m sure you agree...

Daniela Dessi’ was speaking to Rev. George Frendo at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome.
Daniela Dessi’ will be singing the title role in Madama Butterfly at the Teatru Astra on the 25th and 27th October 2012 as part of the 11th edition of Festival Mediterranea.  Booking for the opera is open on 21550985 or 79256897, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   Further information on the opera and festival are available on

Photo: Daniela Dessi in Madama Butterfly at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, February 2012

1 April 2012